The Senate Finance Committee held a Sept. 7 hearing to discuss the future of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Under current law, federal funding for CHIP expires on Sept. 30.
Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) opened the hearing by highlighting that 20 years ago as the original sponsor of the legislation that first authorized CHIP, he worked with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), his cosponsor, to create the CHIP program “in order to provide health coverage for vulnerable children in families that were too poor to afford private coverage, but still didn’t qualify for Medicaid.” Sen. Hatch noted “if Congress doesn’t act to provide additional federal funding, a number of children who would likely be eligible for CHIP will go uninsured once federal funding is exhausted.” He questioned whether the committee should reauthorize or extend the program, stating, “Whether we opt to reopen CHIP for reforms or simply provide another extension, the committee will need to invest significant time and effort to find answers to those questions.”
In his opening statement, Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) stated, “It is vital that the Congress springs into action in the days ahead to reauthorize CHIP’s funding. This program is a lifeline for nearly nine million children.” Sen. Wyden highlighted the urgency of quickly reauthorizing CHIP, adding, “It’s important for Congress to take action soon. There’s no kicking this can down the road with a short-term bill. And this cannot wait until December. Because states run their programs differently, some will run out of funding earlier than others. And in that time, no family should face the panic of being unable to get the care their sick child needs.”
During her testimony, Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) Executive Director Anne Schwartz, PhD, urged Congress “to act as soon as possible to avoid disruption for families, plans, providers, and states, and to ensure that children continue to have access to needed health care services.” Dr. Schwartz noted that MACPAC projects that four states will exhaust available federal funds in the first quarter of fiscal year (FY) 2018, while another 27 states will do so in the second quarter. She also reiterated the commission’s recommendation from January 2017 that “Congress extend federal CHIP funding for a transition period of five years, as well as extend the CHIP maintenance of effort requirement and the 23 percentage point increase in the CHIP matching rate through FY 2022.” According to MACPAC’s most recent estimates, 1.2 million children covered under separate CHIP would become uninsured if CHIP funding were not renewed.